So I wrote this two weeks ago (ish) and forgot to post it so it’s a little behind but still relevant. Here we go!
I can’t believe it’s already August and I’m going home in less than 48 hours. It’s been an incredible summer and I still can’t believe it’s been nine weeks already. Prague is beautiful and I’m so in love with this city that I don’t really want to leave.
My first week here I was honestly kind of afraid I had made a huge mistake. In orientation they talked about the honeymoon period where everything is amazing and then the low where you might start thinking this was a bad idea and compare your temporary home unfavorably to home in the states. I pretty much skipped the honeymoon period and jumped right into freaking out about the new language, the culture, how on earth am I supposed to figure out where I’m going? And oh god they want me to use public transportation, how on earth do you read the tram schedules?? I was really afraid that maybe study abroad wasn’t for me, and that I shouldn’t have come at all.
Fortunately, that feeling didn’t last long. By the end of the first week I had attended three days of class, was riding the trams with no trouble and managed to successfully navigate a grocery store where none of the signs are in English. I started to adjust and instead of feeling overwhelming I started to enjoy the cultural differences I was seeing. People are people, whether in the Czech Republic or the United States, so it was just a matter of adjusting to slightly different expectations. If you’re willing to pay attention, it’s not terribly difficult to go with the flow and fit into the crowd.
I have really loved living in Prague, but there are some definite differences it might have been nice to know about. So for anyone thinking about studying abroad here or even just visiting, here are some things to remember:
- It’s really quiet here – you don’t realize how loud Americans are until you get used to crowded places in the Czech Republic. And?l is a central area about five minutes’ walk from my apartment where there are two tram stops, a metro station, a mall, and a number of stores and restaurants within about 100 meters of each other. I’ve never been there at a time when there were less than one hundred people in view. In the states that many people would be making enough noise to deafen you, but here it’s barely a quiet murmur. And when using public transportation, an entirely full tram car is usually almost completely silent. It takes some getting used to, but I honestly really like it. I’m pretty quiet for the most part so I fit right in. It does, however, make the tourists who aren’t trying to be subtle stand out like a sore thumb. You can spot them immediately just by the amount of noise they’re making. The stereotype of the noisy American makes a lot more sense to me now.
- Do use public transportation – It’s amazing. I can get almost anywhere I want to go in twenty minutes or less without having to drive or deal with traffic. There is a huge network of trams, metros, and buses that will get you anywhere in the city and the schedules might look hard to read, but they’re actually very logical once you get over how many numbers there are. Just be aware that Prague’s public transportation system runs on the honor system. You don’t have to buy a ticket in order to ride but if you don’t once you enter the tram/bus or the ticket required areas of the metro stations you are subject to random checks by transportation officials. If you don’t have a paper ticket that you validate when you enter or a valid Líta?ka card (a card you can load with a month or more’s worth of ride credit. Definitely get one of these, it’s worth it and it’ll pay for itself with how much you use public transportation) then you may end up with a hefty fine. So follow the rules and you’re good. Plus, two months of credit was less than twenty-five dollars. And I use public transportation at least two times a day, usually more.
- Air conditioning is not standard. And you probably won’t find it most places – honestly, until the last week of the program we haven’t needed it. This week we’ve had temperatures in the nineties, which is somewhat unusual here, and we could have used AC but the rest of the summer I’ve been really comfortable. I have a couple of elbow length sweaters that I have worn a lot because the temperatures have usually leaned a little cool rather than too hot.
That’s all for now! I’m sure I’ll think of other things but those are the big ones anyway. Hope everyone’s having a summer as awesome as mine!